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Chris Smith

Crappie fishing has long been a favorite pastime of local anglers.

For decades crappie have been going home with folks from rivers, lakes and backwaters of our beloved East Texas. We catch them in the winter, we catch them in the summer, any season and all day and all night. That’s right, at night and sometimes during freezing air temperatures. This practice is not new or unheard of.

It can be brutal, but the catches can be well worth the freezing night air.

Enormous schools of crappie migrate deep to spend the winter fattening up on the shad that are also wintering deep. Not all crappie make this trip and will remain in shallower schools near boat docks.

Bridges are another crappie magnet and fishing the pilings, rip rap and other concrete structures of the bridge will hold large numbers of slabs. Bank fishing will work but a boat will add mobility and increase your range substantially. Some crappie anglers swear by a light while others prefer none. One thing most agree on the best bait for night crappie is the shiner.

Jigs will catch fish at night, but there’s something about using live bait that seems right after dark.

The bridge pilings may be in 35 feet of water but the crappie could be anywhere from the bottom to within 10 feet of the surface. Many bridge pilings will have a horizontal cross member at some point between the surface and the bottom.

Crappie, shad, bass and everyone else love to lurk under these horizontal ambush points. To understand how to fish this structure, do a little surrounding check. A good rule of thumb is to look above you and notice how the concrete is designed. Apply this vision to the underwater cross member and you can understand how or where your bait should be when the bite comes. Once you determine where your bites are coming from, you can pick the entire bridge to pieces. Ignore the dead spots and concentrate on likeliest spots.

As mentioned earlier boat docks can be deadly at night. A single brushed dock with lights can put a 25 fish limit in the boat in short time. Please be considerate of dock owners and understand the dock is part of their home. A few brushpiles of your own is one way to insure your success. Crappie love these man made structures and it does not take long. I have caught crappie from a 2 day old brush pile.

Keep the pile brushed and baited and after a few years a nice little milk run can be built at your favorite lake.

Finally, dressing for the weather brings a whole new meaning. Some bank anglers fish until they run out of firewood and the boaters can bring the propane heaters to stay warm. Bring along extra set of clothes, socks and boots. Getting wet is bad anytime in the winter, but its even worse at night.

Be safe and good luck. I will see you on one of our East Texas reservoirs in the next few weeks.

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